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Covered Decks: Protection and Beauty

Decks are favorite Summer time hangouts; but the fun can be spoiled when it rains or the sun beats down. With the protection of a covered deck, you can still enjoy the summer even at its hottest or in the rain. Not only do covered decks provide valuable shelter and shade, but they give your backyard and home a brand-new look.

Partially and Completely-Covered Decks

When it comes to covered decks, they can either be completely or partially covered. Completely covered decks are good choices for those who want to avoid the sun's rays as much as possible. Having a deck contractor install a partially covered deck is a great idea for several reasons. First, there are days when even the biggest sun worshippers need a little shade. Having a partially covered deck is great when you want to take a break from sunbathing or when the temperature is too high to enjoy sitting out in the sun. A partially-covered deck is also a great way to make your outdoor furniture and barbeque last longer by protecting them from the elements.

Covered Decks: Roof Styles

The roofs of most covered decks are supported by posts that are often the same color and material as the deck itself. When it comes to covered decks, there are a variety of roof styles available. Some covered decks have a pergola-style roof, which provides some shade but does not totally block the sun or rain. Often, however, the roofs of covered decks are solid structures, much like you would find on a verandah.

Covered decks often have flat roofs or gable roofs. Like the supporting posts, covered deck roofs can be constructed of the same material as the deck (usually wood or composite material). Asphalt, ceramic, metal, or other types of roof tiles may be used, and this is often dependent on the type of roof tiles that appear on the house.

Covered Decks Can Be Private Areas

One aspect that people overlook during the deck design and installation process is the amount of privacy that their deck will provide, and that can be a mistake. If there's a hot tub on your deck, for example, feeling like all the neighbors can see you definitely isn't a pleasant feeling. Covered decks, however, can provide a greater feeling of privacy than regular decks. Solid, high railings and a relatively low, solid roof will give you the feeling of being in your own private room.


Outdoor Kitchen Designs: Turning Up the Heat on Outdoor Design

Outdoor kitchens are no longer outdoor side projects. They are extensions of the home. From colossal grills to grandiose brick ovens, outdoor kitchens are often more elaborate than their indoor counterparts. And why shouldn't they be? Increasingly, homeowners are discovering that outdoor kitchens make the lawn more than just a chunk of grass.

With the multitude of variables that go into creating an effective outdoor kitchen it is difficult to know where to start the planning process. Functionality should be the primary goal. After functional capabilities are determined, the outdoor kitchen design should follow. The design will influence what materials go into installation and the accessories that will be included in the final space.

Outdoor Kitchen Functionality

Outdoor kitchens should be convenient and easily accessible. Ideally, the outdoor space would reflect the indoor space. No appliance would be neglected. The end user would have not only a grill, stovetop, and oven, but also a sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator. However, for most homeowners this is out of the construction budget. Therefore, before installation begins, homeowners should prioritize the conveniences that they want incorporated into their final outdoor kitchen design.

Homeowners should always plan ahead. Uprooting flooring and installing new plumbing and electricity is expensive. If the plans include future development, the groundwork for changes should be laid from the outset of construction.

Don't short spend on appliances. Although it seems counterintuitive, more expensive appliances will actually be cheaper in the long run after maintenance is taken into consideration. Invest in the proper framework in order to avoid unseen future costs.

Outdoor Kitchen Design

An outdoor kitchen design should incorporate all functional components under a common theme or concept design. Typical themes include contemporary, Tuscan, tropical, and old European. The theme will affect the choice of the overhead shelter, the flooring materials, and the shape and exterior of the outdoor kitchen fixtures.

The center piece of an outdoor kitchen design is usually the grill. Depending on the size of the family or the number of frequent guests, a grill top can range from 27" to 48". Other elements that go into outdoor kitchen design include channeling the flow of foot traffic, separating distinct spaces with aesthetic accessories, and influencing mood through outdoor lighting.

Outdoor Kitchen Accessories

Thematic accessories enhance the livability of an outdoor kitchen. The most ornate spaces are furnished with full dining room sets, upholstered furniture, and wall-mounted televisions. Of course, those are not necessities. To save on outdoor accessories consider crafty alternatives. Try constructing a fire pit and finding unworn used furniture at resale venues.

The only limit to constructing a functional outdoor kitchen is the homeowner's imagination. Nearly all designs can be installed on a budget. Do-it-yourself kits and personal installation reduce labor costs. Natural stones can be collected with a little effort to reduce material costs. It only requires a little planning and dedication.


Tips for Outdoor Fire pit Maintenance

If you're in the market for an outdoor fire pit, you've got many options. From the ultra-portable and sometimes semi-disposable chiminea to the traditional stone-built fireplace, homeowners make a series of decisions about their needs to select an outdoor fire pit. Maintenance issues figure high on the list of issues that a homeowner thinks about when considering an outdoor fireplace for a lawn or patio. Outdoor fire pit contractors can help make decisions on what's best for your yard or patio according to use and style.

Outdoor Fireplace Maintenance: Chimineas

These portable ovens have become fashionable for porches or patios. There are obvious benefits of selecting a chiminea for an outdoor fireplace. They can be easily moved and are not a large investment.

Chimineas come in many shapes, sizes, colors and materials. To consider maintenance for a chiminea, think about what happens to each material over time.

Clay chimineas don't need a lot of maintenance, but they're easily broken. Copper tends to turn green. Both should be kept covered to avoid damage from water.

Cast iron chimineas last a long time if well maintained. A good thick coat of paint will keep your cast iron outdoor fireplace in good condition.

Outdoor Fireplace Maintenance: Fire Pits

The fire pit is a great choice for many yards and patios. Table-style fire pits are also portable, and the design gives you a more dispersed heat pattern.

But fire pits can also be pretty high-maintenance. You'll have to take care of the burned materials to prevent embers and soot from being strewed all over your patio space. A few tips will help you out on this.

Keep the fire pit in a place where it won't be knocked over, away from high traffic areas, and away from winds, which can carry your residual ash across your yard. It also helps to buy a heavier model that might stand up better to the elements.

If you fire pit is on the patio and exposed to rain, empty it promptly after use. Rain storms will carry your ash across your space in streaks and puddles.

A metal fire pit needs a lot of the same care as a chiminea. You'll want to prevent rust by applying sealer or paint, and clean out the trap every once in awhile.

Outdoor Fireplace Maintenance: Stone or Brick

When considering an outdoor fireplace, homeowners can also choose to go with the traditional option. A stone or brick standing fireplace is an altogether different kind of buy than the portable types, but it comes with its own benefits, giving properties authenticity and historic appearance. There's no substitute for a well-built stone or brick fireplace in your yard or open space, but at some point, whether it's in 10, 50 or 100 years, the project will eventually need a major overhaul. If you're confused about design, fire pit contractors can help you with outdoor fireplace and fire pit ideas.

When it comes to maintenance for a stone or brick outdoor fireplace, a few tips apply. Consider how well your mortar will stand up to the elements over time: less porous, tougher materials will keep your project solvent longer.

Another thing to consider is the relative pointing of the project. "Pointing" refers to maintaining the mortar in between the bricks or stones. Some stone projects can be easy to point, but generally, brick is a more straightforward design.

Your Outdoor Fireplace Project

For more on what other homeowners have done to incorporate an outdoor fireplace into their property, check out outdoor fire pit photo galleries or talk to a fire pit contractor to get ideas for your own project.


Tips for a Great Patio Party

What’s more fun in the warm months than grilling out? It’s grilling out with friends. Host your own backyard barbeque and invite all your buddies over for a tasty meal and some backyard fun. Here are some tips to get that party started right. The number one complaint I have about throwing a barbeque party is that the cooks do more cooking than enjoying their company. Last minute preparations mean that the food is not ready when the guests arrive. It is hard to entertain and fix the appetizers at the same time. People seem to eat in shifts as the food gets ready. Let’s avoid that bit of nonsense this year. If you are going to have a barbeque get-together, plan ahead so that it is easy on the guests and the hosts. Know your menu. Decide the week before what you will serve for the meal. Appetizers or finger foods of some sort allow guests to munch while they wait for the main course to finish on the grill. Appetizers should be small especially if you plan on serving a variety of grilled meats and vegetables. Try a veggie or fruit tray with some low calorie dip. This is easy to make—you go to the store and pick one up! The name of the game here is to have fun and to do as much as you can ahead of time. These appetizer trays have no preservatives so it’s okay to buy them pre-packaged from the store. Punch is a good idea for a party where there will be children as well as grown ups. If the punch is meant to be sparkling (adding soda), chill the punch first without the soda and add it just before the guests arrive. That way, the punch won’t lose it’s kick while in the fridge. If the guests were told to bring their appetites, you may want to eliminate grilled chicken from the menu. Chicken takes a long time to cook depending on the parts of the bird you are grilling. This alone will cause some people to get their food ahead of others. So no guest is left with an empty plate, choose other meats or pre-bake your chicken before grilling to reduce cooking time. Remember to always preheat the grill. When people come in and see smoke rising from the grill they expect that you have already put food on it. Don’t surprise them with the smell of smoldering charcoal. Forty-five minutes before the party, start the gas or charcoal grill so that the coals get hot and are ready for grilling once the guests arrive. As for the side dishes and cold salads, prepare those at least an hour (for the side dishes) or two (for the salads) before the party. This cuts down on the work of the host and hostess. You can sit with your friends and await the goodies from the grill. Better still, everyone can watch the grill master at work and nibble on appetizers. The backyard barbeque should flow smoothly when you take the time to prepare. When the work is done early, the fun can begin as soon as the guests arrive.


Installing Fence Gates of all Shapes and Sizes

Fences are great for protecting your land, separating sections of your yard, or sitting on if you can't make up your mind. But even the best and most attractive fence needs a place where you can get from one side to the other, which is where the gate comes in. Maintaining the integrity of the boundary while allowing privileged travelers to pass, gates come in many sizes and styles. Although they are different in appearance, there are similar characteristics from which all can benefit.

When selecting where to place a gate, it's helpful to keep in mind how you are going to use it and where the most traffic will naturally want to pass through your fence. Its location should provide the most convenience without getting in the way of anything or damaging plants or neighboring structures when it's opened. When deciding on its location, also consider whether you want it to open in, out, or in both directions and ensure that you have enough clearance. If the perfect location for the gate happens to be where it's in the way or may hit something when opened, consider adding a gate stop to limit the gate's range. A gate stop can be as simple as a slender strip of wood installed near the hinges, wedging against the gate before it gets to the trouble area.

Once you know where you want your gate, determine how large it should be. If you think that only people will pass through it, the gate can be fairly skinny, although it probably shouldn't be less than 24 inches. If the gate will be used to bring objects into your yard, make it big enough for the largest item you might want to bring through; a wheel barrel, mowers, a large cart. If the gate's opening needs to be larger than five feet wide, consider either creating two gates that meet in the middle or, if you choose to use one long gate, putting a wheel on one end of the gate so that it carries the weight of the opened gate and the posts don't have to withstand excessive pressure that may damage them.

The gate's posts are its pillars, enduring the use and abuse unintentionally delivered from opening and closing the gate. To ensure the gate stays true and that you don't have to continually fix it, set your posts about six inches deeper than the rest of the fence's posts. Also, if the ground freezes where you live be sure to dig your post holes deep enough to get below the level of the future frozen ground so that your posts don't shift over time. Some people dig a trench that they fill with concrete between the two gate posts to make things even more stable. To help drain water away from your posts, fill the post holes with gravel before putting in the posts and concrete, then slope the top of the concrete away from the posts so that the water runs off and doesn't pool.

When creating the gate's frame, be sure it's square so that it opens and closes easier. If you place its crossbar diagonally from the top near where the gate latches down to the bottom by the hinge of the gate it will help prevent it from shifting, getting out of square, and causing problems. Hang the gate with enough space to clear any objects beneath it, usually one to three inches works well.


Extend Your Fun Area With Aluminum Patio Covers

As a wise homeowner you're always on the lookout for improvements to your house, and to your budget. An aluminum patio cover is one such astute improvement. It extends the useable area of your house. The improvement adds value to the house. You can use the aluminum patio cover for any number of things - a shed for your car or for gardening equipment, a canopy for an entrance, anything that requires a little more space than you already have. An aluminum patio cover may appear costly compared to other patio covers, but when you factor in the durability, ease of installation and zero maintenance of aluminum patio covers the cost of ownership is actually much less than that of any other type of patio cover.

Aluminum patio covers are made of corrosion-fighting aluminum, which is why they're usually backed by a lifetime warranty. Accidents apart, these structures require no maintenance. An aluminum patio cover adds to the value of the house. The wise homeowner appreciates aluminum patio covers for these money-saving qualities. No wonder they're as popular as they are!

When you sit on your patio protected by an aluminum patio cover, you enjoy the best of both worlds, the indoors and the outdoors! There are no walls, no doors, so you're outside, At the same time the aluminum patio cover is a roof overhead that protects you from sun and rain, like you're inside! You can augment the protection an aluminum patio cover provides with screens to keep the bugs at bay.

Cleaning the aluminum patio covers is very easy. All you need is a long-handled brush to reach up to the conveniently angled aluminum patio cover, and some soap and water. You may want to use a cleaning solution which is specially prepared for aluminum.

If you can, order a drainage system with your aluminum patio cover. This prevents water from accumulating in dips and hollows around the patio area.

Aluminum is easy to paint. You can paint the aluminum patio cover any shade of color that catches your fancy. You can have it painted with a pattern. That's how easy it is to match your aluminum patio cover with the exterior appearance of your house, or with the patio furniture. On the other hand, you may want to get a prepainted aluminum patio cover. Visit an aluminum patio cover showroom and you will discover the amazing variety of color schemes and patterns that are readily available.

An aluminum patio cover is a wise addition to your house. It requires a one-time investment only. After that it is virtually maintenance free for its lifetime. It will raise the value of the house, and in case you think of moving, the resale value of the house will improve because of the aluminum patio cover.

Canvas and wood patio covers are no match for the durability of aluminum patio covers. The maintenance cost alone will almost equal the original cost of these patio covers. If you do have to replace them after all, that means that they cost you more than twice the retail price! Better than looking at other materials, you should explore the cheaper models of aluminum patio cover that abound in the market. You are sure to find an aluminum patio cover that fits your budget. So get ready to relax under your new aluminum patio cover, with a long cool drink, and Linda Ronstadt crooning 'Blue Bayou' softly in the background!


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